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front cover: 

Theodore Deck (1823-1891) 


Platter, about 1870 

Earthenware, enamel decoration 

Gift of Eleanor Hewitt 




Photographs by Tom Rose 

Designed by Heidi Humphrey 

Printed by Eastern Press, Inc. 

Typeset by Trufont Typographers, Inc. 

© 1981 by The Smithsonian Institution 

All rights reserved 

Library of Congress Catalog No. 81-67381 


Of all the collections within the 
Cooper-Hewitt Museum that contain 
objects representing a wide range of 
times, places, and traditions, pottery is 
undoubtedly among the most diverse 
and encylopedic. This is due in part to 
the fact that nearly all cultures, from 
prehistoric times to the present, have 
produced some form of pottery — be it 
humble utilitarian earthenware, 
radiant polychromed tin-glazed 
wares, or lustrous and elegant stone- 
wares. The variety of forms and the 
modes of decoration that can be 
studied in the history of pottery make 
it one of the most pertinent to the 
continuing development of design. 

The collection of pottery at the Mu- 
seum represents the tastes, interest, 
and knowledge of many individual 
donors who have added important 
examples over the decades since the 
founding of the Museum. Early 
additions to the collection included 
numerous examples of the pottery 
traditions of eighteenth-century Con- 
tinental Europe and England; these 
core collections were soon buttressed 
by pertinent examples that represented 
the traditions of the Middle East, the 

Orient, and the Americas. During the 
past two decades there has been a 
concerted effort to expand the collec- 
tion to include primary examples of 
the work of nineteenth- and 
twentieth-century potters, studios, 
and factories. The collection continues 
to grow in both historic and contem- 
porary pottery according to the col- 
lecting policies established by the 

The complex history of pottery sur- 
veyed in this catalogue links the ob- 
jects to the aesthetic and practical 
concerns of the societies that created, 
used, and enjoyed them. The 
Cooper-Hewitt collection, as it de- 
velops in both quality and quantity, 
will serve as a primary resource for 
those who share our interest in this 
vital field of design. We are deeply 
grateful tojanet Annenberg Hooker 
for having made this publication 

Lisa Taylor 

Civilization may be considered the 
record of man's continuing relation- 
ship with the natural and social envi- 
ronment, encompassing aspects of 
human life from the pragmatic to the 
spiritual. There are many artifacts that 
serve as cultural documents of this 
relationship, and these comprise the 
raw material of history. Although 
fundamental stages in social organ- 
ization — the domestication of animals 
and the systematic propagation of 
foodstuffs — provide a dramatic record 
of the process of civilization, few early 
artifacts documenting the creative 
maturation of mankind have the 
evocative power of a humble piece of 
pottery. In a sense pottery may be 
considered a tool, in that it serves 
specific and practical functions; it may, 
however, also be viewed as a means of 
aesthetic expression that encompasses 
a broader spectrum of functions, in- 
cluding those of ceremony and ritual. 

Pottery, both utilitarian and ceremo- 
nial, appeared extremely early in a 
large number of prehistoric cultures 
and rapidly became indispensable to 
man. Archaeological finds have indi- 
cated that a pottery tradition can be 

documented during the late Ice Age, 
and from this early date to the present 
virtually every culture that has had 
access to clay and has had the tech- 
nological sophistication to use it has 
manufactured some variety of pottery; 
the types, forms, and decorations are 
seemingly unlimited, often distinctive 
in appearance, and frequently conso- 
nant with the more general aesthetic 
concerns of the society in which it is 
produced. It is this documentary role, 
as a recorder of culture, that makes the 
study of pottery so important to an 
understanding of history. 

Within most cultures, pottery is used 
primarily for performing practical 
tasks, and suitability to serve a particu- 
lar function is usually a prerequisite of 
the design. Pottery has always been 
especially useful for storing, prepar- 
ing, and serving food and drink. The 
utilitarian role of a piece of pottery is 
rarely seen in isolation, however, since 
the medium also records a human 
aesthetic response to form and decora- 
tion. The manipulation of clay is a 
formative gesture, and the object that 
results has a meaning that transcends 
function alone. It is the human ability 

to "form" as well as to "shape" that 
gives pottery a particular vitality as a 
means of aesthetic expression. 

The making of any ceramics — be it 
earthenware, stoneware, or porce- 
lain — depends on clay, a natural mate- 
rial that results from the gradual de- 
composition of stones. Chemically, 
the material may be simple or com- 
plex, common or rare, depending 
upon available local sources and the 
choice of the potter. Clay may be 
turned into pottery in a variety of 
ways and through the use of a variety 
of tools and implements. Essential to 
pottery fabrication is a means of hard- 
ening the soft clay, generally through 
exposure of the formed object to some 
type of heat. These two processes — 
forming and firing — remain constants 
throughout the history of the craft and 
deserve an introductory coverage. 

To be workable, clay must be com- 
bined with water; once the potter has 
finished working the clay, this water 
must be removed in order to produce a 
solid, shape-retaining form. Most 
water may be removed by simply 
allowing the clay to dry, but to insure 

that the water has been thoroughly 
eliminated, a heating process known 
as firing is used. Firing may take place 
in several ways: placing a pot or clay 
object in a fire or within the glowing 
coals of a fire and covering it to trap the 
heat will result in a kind of firing. 
More common, however, is the use of 
a specially designed and constructed 
oven, called a kiln, in which the pot- 
tery is exposed to a high, constant, and 
controlled heat without being in direct 
contact with flames. This sophisti- 
cated tool is known to have been in 
operation before 4000 B.C. in certain 
Persian and Mesopotamian pottery 
centers. Many of the techniques and 
tools of the craft, including the kiln, 
were undoubtedly disseminated by 
migrating peoples, but they were also 
probably invented independently in 
societies that had no direct contact 
with each other. Such advances, 
whether innovations or borrowings, 
reflect the rapid intellectual strides 
made in many prehistoric and 
protohistoric cultures. 

A vessel or object of clay can be 
formed in several different ways, each 
of which requires a different level of 

technical proficiency. The simplest 
manipulation of clay is done by apply- 
ing hand-pressure to a lump or mass of 
clay in order to create a concave de- 
pression. Continued pinching or 
squeezing of the clay eventually pro- 
duces a simple hollow form. A more 
sophisticated technique is known as 
building, in which a progressive addi- 
tion of coils or pieces of clay around a 
hollow core creates a form. Built pots 
depend on the ability of clay to adhere 
to itself and to remain intact through 
pressure. By far the most prevalent and 
familiar technique is that of wheel- 
throwing, in which an unformed mass 
of clay is rotated on a flat surface. 
Shaping occurs as a result of applying 
exterior and interior hand pressure to 
the rotating mass. This causes the clay 
to rise, spread, increase or decrease in 
thickness, and arrive at a consistent, 
hollow, three-dimensional form. 

Although numerous other refine- 
ments in technique are known to pot- 
ters, an alternative to wheel-throwing 
is molding, in which the moist clay is 
pressed into a non-resilient shaping 
device or mold. The plasticity of the 
clay causes it to assume and retain the 

reverse or "negative" shape of the 
mold; if the mold is created as a 
negative shape, the clay will emerge as 
a "positive" form. An extension of this 
technique involves pouring semi- 
liquid clay (called slip) into an absor- 
bent removable mold; when sufficient 
water has been drawn from this mix- 
ture a firm semi-dry shape can be 
extracted from the mold. 

Formed and dried clay vessels, even 
when fired, may not be impermeable 
to liquids. The basic ways of prevent- 
ing absorption of liquids have been 
known to potters for centuries. Clays 
that contain decomposed fusible mate- 
rials, such as feldspar, may be fired to a 
temperature that causes the clay to fuse 
to a degree that renders it impermeable 
to water. Such high-fired and more 
completely fused clay bodies are 
known as stonewares. The most re- 
fined ceramic body — porcelain — is 
also the most nearly perfectly fused, its 
appearance achieving a translucency 
that resembles glass more closely 
than clay. 

The second, and by far the oldest, 
method of producing a water-tight 

surface on a pottery vessel is through 
the application of a powdered vitreous 
substance, which, under heat, will 
melt to form a glassy coating that 
adheres to the clay. Such a coating is 
known as aglaze. In addition to their 
functional importance, glazes offer a 
myriad of ornamental possibilities, 
since they may contain brilliant color. 
Potters have relied upon the decorative 
potential of glazes for centuries, and 
the variety of glazing methods and 
styles contributes to the rich panorama 
of pottery history. 

The forms and decoration of pottery 
surveyed in this catalogue, all of which 
are illustrated by examples from the 
permanent collection of the Cooper- 
Hewitt Museum, are so varied that 
major types can only be suggested. It is 
worthwhile to examine typical exam- 
ples of the more significant schools, 
studios, and artists who have contrib- 
uted to the history of the craft. Selec- 
tions range from the tenth century B.C. 
to the present decade, and include both 
earthenware and stoneware, although 
not porcelain, a related but distinct 
area of ceramic history. 

Archaeological evidence indicates that 
potters were working at prehistoric 
sites in Moravia as early as 4000 B.C. 
Between then and about the tenth 
century B.C., when the oldest piece of 
pottery in the Cooper-Hewitt collec- 
tion was made, many generations of 
potters were born, created their 
works, and disappeared, leaving be- 
hind the documents of their creativity. 
The potter responsible for the 
Cooper-Hewitt's piece — an elegant 
flared bowl found in Necropolis B at 
Syalk in Persia (Figure 1) — is 
anonymous, although the form and 
decoration of the piece clearly indicate 
its origin. The tapered base of the bowl 
and the delicately profiled upper body 
reveal a sensitive perception of form. 

Potters throughout history have 
created their designs in concert with 
larger general design movements 
within a society, and this bowl offers a 
visual discourse on the symbolism of 
the period. In addition to the general 
form, the painting style is typical; the 
matte brown paint used on the pot is 
common to much Persian pottery of 
the period. The design includes stand- 
ing ibexes whose horns encircle a 

stylized representation of the sun; 
these passages are separated by panels 
of checkerboard pattern. In addition to 
having symbolic content, the designs 
form a coherent repeat pattern. This 
repetition of designs around the con- 
tinuous form visually connotes a 
grander philosophical continuity, a 
meaning implicit in the repetition of 
motifs. The use of the pottery form as a 
canvas on which visual information 
may be painted was, and still is, an 
important aspect of the design vocabu- 
lary within the history of the art. 

Nearly five hundred years later in date 
than this Persian bowl is a Greek kylix, 
or two-handled drinking vessel (Fig- 
ure 2) from the mid-sixth century 
B.C. Greek pottery has long been ad- 
mired for its elegant and distinctive 
forms, but even more so for its superb 
figural decoration. The Cooper- 
Hewitt kylix was shaped on a wheel, a 
technique that had appeared in the 
Greek world by the beginning of the 
second millennium B.C. It is decorated 
in the"black-figure" technique, in 
which glossy black figures are painted 
over a rich red-brown ground; often 
these figures are inscribed with fine 



Persia, Syalk 

Deep Bowl, 1 1 th-lOth century B.C. or earlier 

Unglazed earthenware, painted with brown 

Purchased in memory of Georgiana L. 




Kylix, 6th century B.C. 

Earthenware, with black-figure painting 

Anonymous gift 


lines to add further detail. Although 
the figures appear somewhat flat and 
stylized, their individuality and anima- 
tion indicate that the painter was one 
of unusual talent. The figures are ar- 
ranged within a band that encircles the 
body of the vessel and at the same time 
creates an area of implied spatial depth 
in which the figures reside. The so- 
lidity and clarity of the basic form is 
emphasized by two bands of decora- 
tion; stylized leaves arranged in a 
half-step repeat clearly delineate the 
everted lip of the vessel, while a 
geometric band and radiating pattern 
visually signal the curved underside of 
the vessel and its logical juncture with 
the spreading foot. 

The style of the painting on this kylix, 
at once disciplined and expressive, is 
clearly related to that on a group of 
similar pots that probably all issued 
from the same studio or workshop. It 
is on this basis that the Cooper-Hewitt 
piece, which is unsigned (actual signed 
works by other artists of the period do 
exist), is attributed to the so-called 
Heidelberg painter. An important in- 
dication of the quality of Greek pot- 
tery decoration is the clear understand- 

Egypt, Alexandria 

Hydria, 320-290 B.C. 

Earthenware, painted with brown pigment 

Gift ofE.Dimon Bird 


ing that it displays of relationships 
between form, function, and decora- 
tion. Within the boundaries of func- 
tion and the limitations of form, the 
potter has achieved a new synthesis of 
coherent visual organization in which 
the decoration emphasizes the form. 
This unity of form and decoration, 
shape and surface, has continued to 
characterize the production of pottery 
through the centuries and stands as the 
foundation of design. 

Egypt's pottery tradition was flourish- 
ing as early as 4000 B.C. A large jar in 
the Cooper-Hewitt collection (Figure 
3) reveals the technical skill of Egyp- 
tian potters in the production of useful 
but elegantly painted forms. This jar, 
which is dated to the late fourth or 
early third century B.C., was recovered 
from an Alexandrian tomb in 1884. 
The robust shape of the vessel is 
typical of Egyptian utilitarian pottery; 
simple decoration includes horizontal 
bands and foliate motifs over a lighter 
ground color. The pale ground was 
made possible by adding a layer of 
slip — a creamy mixture of fine clay 
and water — which provided a 
smooth, pale "canvas" for painted de- 

coration. Egyptian pottery of this late 
period, well after the golden years of 
Pharaonic rule, is generally less im- 
pressive than Greek or Roman pottery 
made at the same time. However, the 
survival of the craft over centuries of 
social and political change does reiter- 
ate the importance of the potter to 
society. Along with furniture makers, 
glassblowers, and textile weavers, pot- 
ters have produced work that has been 

in continuous demand. However, the 
advent of machine produced goods for 
everyday use made the workshop ap- 
pear redundant and inefficient. As shall 
be seen, such developments in the craft 
radically altered the role of the potter 
within society, and that change of 
status directed potters toward new 
fields of design experimentation, par- 
ticularly in the nineteenth and twen- 
tieth centuries. 

China, Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) 

Jar (Fa-hua type) 

Earthenware, with polychrome glazes 

Bequest of Mary Hearn Grcims 



The impressive history of pottery in 
the Far East can only be suggested in 
this survey, since the pottery traditions 
of China, Japan, and Korea are a field 
of study within themselves. The his- 
tory of ceramics in the East has been 
distinguished by the genius of Chinese 
potters, who, as early as the archaic 
period, brought the craft within the 
sphere of the fine arts. Chinese pottery, 
even that from the Neolithic period, is 
endowed with a sophisticated and 
mystical quality of form and decora- 
tion far in advance of the Western 
world. The spirit of aesthetic intelli- 
gence, which matured early in China, 
produced an environment in which 
the potter's art could be nurtured. 
Early in the history of the craft, 
Chinese potters had gained a mastery 
over materials and techniques that 
freed them to create masterpieces 
rarely equaled by other cultures. It is 
also to China that one looks to see the 
first development of porcelain, the 
most highly refined, delicate, and de- 
manding of ceramic materials. Al- 
though porcelain held pride of place 
among Chinese ceramics, pottery con- 
tinued to be produced that reflected the 
ancient traditions of form and tech- 

nique but also acknowledged the 
styles of contemporary porcelain. Cer- 
tain characteristics of Chinese pottery 
are suggested by a piece selected from 
the Cooper-Hewitt collection, a 
Fa-hua jar dated to the Ming dynasty 
(1368-1644) (Figure 4). The Cooper- 
Hewitt jar is decorated with relief and 
incised motifs drawn from the world 
of nature, including flowers and birds. 
The interest of Chinese artists in de- 
signs based on the natural world is 
paralleled by a related sensitivity to 
pattern, as seen in the scrolled panels 
that encircle the vase. The decorative 

motifs are highlighted in a brillant 
range of yellow, magenta, and tur- 
quoise. The decoration is delineated 
on the surface of the base by fine ridges 
of clay that separate the color fields, 
and a visual parallel is thus established 
between pottery design and work in 
cloisonne enamel, for which Chinese 
metalworkers were so justly famous. 
The refined forms and subtle glazes of 
Chinese porcelain stand in contrast to 
this more opulent and showy style of 
pottery. Both styles reflect the skill of 
the potter and his ability to organize 
form and decoration within an aes- 
thetic of supreme sophistication. 

Persia, Seljuk Dynasty 

Vase, 12th-13th century 

Glazed earthenware 

Gift of the Estate of David Wolfe Bishop 


The skills of the Middle and Near 
Eastern potters have also played an 
important and influential role in the 
development of the potter's craft to a 
fine art. These traditions also indicate 
the perennial change within the 
framework of continuity that makes 
pottery so important in the history of 
design. An example of Egyptian pot- 
tery has already been illustrated, and it 
was from the Egyptian tradition that 
another developed. With the collapse 
of the Fatimids in Egypt, many potters 
moved to areas where their services 
could be utilized. Some of them are 
known to have moved as far as v 
Mesopotamia and present-day Iran. 
Others can be traced stylistically to 
Asia Minor. It was in Persia, under the 
Seljuk dynasty, that many superior 
examples of the potter's art were pro- 
duced. The Cooper-Hewitt collection 
contains a typical Seljuk flower vase 
(Figure 5) with a central pierced neck 
and four additional spouts attached to 
the body. The vase is covered in a rich 
turquoise blue glaze applied thickly to 
the surface. The pierced decoration at 
the neck is covered almost entirely by 
the melted vitreous glaze, and the end 
result resembles a still liquid surface. 

Turkey, Iznik 

Handled Vessel, late 16th century 

Glazed earthenware 

Gift of R. Thornton Wilson 


One of the most important contribu- 
tions to the history of pottery was the 
manufacture in the Seljuk area of 
glazed earthenware for architectural 
purposes. Many Persian potters fabri- 
cated architectural tiles for indoor and 
outdoor use, and their work had a 
great influence on the tile traditions of 
the West. Persian potters also excelled 
in the production of lustre wares, in 
which the glazed surface of the pottery 
was coated with a metallic oxide (fre- 
quently copper) and fired once again to 
produce a lustrous reflective surface of 
unusual quality. Such wares combined 
the best of the ceramic tradition with 
an effect previously achieved only by 
metalworkers. These popular wares 
were influential sources of design in 
the West, particularly in Moorish 
Spain and Italy. 

Another important center that con- 
tributed to the design traditions of 
pottery in the East was the prolific 
pottery industry in Isnik, located in 
Western Anatolia. In the Isnik work- 
shops color was always of major im- 
portance, and the wares produced dur- 
ing the various periods of Isnik activ- 
ity attest to an appreciation of clear and 
radiant polychrome. Isnik pottery is 

generally classified stylistically into 
coherent categories according to paint- 
ing styles and the colors employed; it 
was during the second half of the 
sixteenth century that a distinctive and 
brilliant red appeared in painted deco- 
ration on pottery. A handled vessel 
(Figure 6) from the Cooper-Hewitt 
collection illustrates the richly deco- 
rated and colorful surfaces of Isnik 
wares. The body of the vessel is made 
of a pale clay; the whiteness of the 
surface was achieved by applying a 
glaze. This oxide-based glaze, against 
which the colored decoration stands 
out in brilliant contrast, was an ap- 
proximation of the pure white wares 
of China. As will be seen in later 
European pottery, a similar desire to 
imitate porcelain was highly influen- 
tial in the development of tin-glazed 
pottery in the West. 

The decoration on this vessel is typical 
of Isnik design during the late six- 
teenth century; the isolated motifs of 
striking color, based on natural foliate 
forms, have been stylized into shaped, 
pointed ovals arranged in a repeat 
pattern. The handle on the vessel, in its 
flatness and angularity, suggests that 
the prototype for the shape may be 

found in metalwork. Although the re- 
lationship of this form to metalwork 
may be peripheral, it does underline 
the close relationship that frequently 
has existed between potters and 
metalsmiths throughout the history of 
the decorative arts. Each artist is, of 
course, influenced by the general cul- 
tural environment in which the work 
is accomplished, and since potters and 
metalworkers were often involved in 
making vessels and objects that per- 
formed similar functions, it is not 
surprising that this relationship exists. 

Following the collapse of the Roman 
Empire, pottery continued to be made 
in many European centers, although 
there were few instances of brilliance 
to mark the progress of styles. Con- 
current developments in the Far, Mid- 
dle, and Near Eastern areas continued 
to set the standards of excellence 
throughout the civilized world. Re- 
ports of the ceramic treasures of the 
Orient, such as that provided by the 
traveler Marco Polo, filtered into 
medieval Europe. Europeans were ac- 
customed to rather plain and un- 
sophisticated utilitarian wares, and 
early imports of Chinese porcelains 
inflamed the imaginations of Western 

collectors and potters. There were ten- 
tative attempts among European pot- 
ters to simulate the elegance of exotic 
imported wares, but it was not until 
the Renaissance that a new tradition of 
European pottery appeared. In Eu- 
ropean potteries active during the fif- 
teenth and sixteenth centuries, many 
techniques from earlier Roman 
periods reappeared, including the use 
of a clear lead glaze that provided a 
shiny and impervious surface. Lead 
glazes were composed of a basic mix- 
ture of sand, salt, and an alkali derived 
from potash, fused with a lead oxide or 
galena. This formula could produce a 
colorless but shiny glaze that revealed 
the color of the clay beneath it, or it 
could be colored by the addition of 
minerals; copper, for instance, ren- 
dered the glaze either clear green or 
brown, without causing the glaze to 
become opaque. Lead glazes were used 
throughout Europe during the Renais- 
sance, but the technique was brought 
to a new level of proficiency in the 
workshop of Bernard Palissy, a potter 
active at Saintes, France. Palissy's 
work gained much admiration from 
the aristocracy. By 1566 he had moved 
to Paris at the request of Catherine de 
Medici, who was to become his most 



Attributed to Bernard Palissy (1510-1590) 

Figure of St. Paul, about 1575 

Lead-glazed earthenware 

Gift of Miss Edith Wetmore 


distinguished patron. His reputation 
was not only based upon his mastery 
of the lead glaze but also upon his 
fertile imagination. He made clay the 
vehicle for strong and vital sculptural 
statements. Certain figures produced 
at the Palissy workshop are known to 
have been derived from originals by 
sculptors such as Jean Goujon, but 
models have also been traced to con- 
temporary metalwork. Typical ot 
Palissy-type work is a figure of St. 
Paul, now in the Cooper-Hewitt col- 
lection (Figure 7). The diminutive 
figure of the saint is monumental in 
conception; dressed in a full and com- 
plicated drapery that reveals the struc- 
ture of the figure beneath, the saint 
wears a dignified, yet animated, ex- 
pression. The clear and sparkling lead 
glaze includes a brilliant blue on the 
robe, a brown cape, and a green plinth, 
with a natural clay flesh tone for the 
hands and face. Palissy's work, par- 
ticularly his immutable sense of 
sculptural form, clearly strikes an early 
parallel to more recent developments 
in the field of ceramic arts in which the 
line of distinction between art and 
craft has-become uncertain. 

Germany, Siegburg 

Tankard, 1550-1600 

Stoneware, pewter 

Purchased in memory of Georgiana L. 


Lead glazing also held a position of 
importance in the northern lands of 
Germany during the sixteenth cen- 
tury, where important schools of pot- 
tery design flourished in successful and 
cosmopolitan centers like Nuremberg. 
However, another tradition — salt- 
glazed stoneware — was the most im- 
portant contribution of the German 
countries to the development of pot- 
tery in Europe. High-fired ceramics 
were produced during the medieval 
period, but it was not until the late 
fourteenth century that a lively tradi- 
tion of extremely hard stoneware 
products using a salt glaze developed. 
The composition of the clay used to 
produce stoneware requires that it be 
fired at temperatures that exceed those 
used for pottery. At such temperatures 
traditional glazes, even lead glazes, 
were destroyed by the heat. It was 
discovered that if ordinary salt was 
thrown into the hot kiln, a reaction 
occurred between the vaporized salt 
and the clay, that produced a thin clear 
glaze on the entire surface of the ob- 
ject. This discovery was soon fully 
exploited, and salt-glazed stoneware 
was produced in abundance in areas 
such as Siegburg and Cologne. 

Typical of late sixteenth-century Sieg- 
burg stoneware is a tall tankard in the 
Cooper-Hewitt collection (Figure 8). 
The glaze on Siegburg wares allowed 
the near-white stoneware body to 
show, and decoration frequently con- 
sisted of molded designs. The iconog- 
raphy of this Siegburg jug illustrates 
both the sacred and the secular aspects 
of the Renaissance in the North. The 
body of the piece is covered with 
interconnected strapwork, scrolls, 
foliage, and cherubs, clearly inspired 
by sixteenth-century pattern books. 
Roundels and ovals enclosed by the 
strapwork and grotesques are filled 
with narrative pictorial scenes. Near 
the handle is a roundel depicting the 
story of Joseph with Potiphar's wife. 
Below that is a figure of a knight, and 
at the lower part of the body is a view 
of a sixteenth-century town not unlike 
Siegburg itself, peopled with charac- 
ters from the story of David and 
Bathsheba. The techniques of molding 
can be seen in this example; each 
pictorial and ornamental panel is du- 
plicated three times around the body 
of the tankard, and the juncture be- 
tween molded sections is clearly 

Germany, Saxony 
Jar, about 1675 
Stoneware, silver 
Gift of MiltonJ. Blume 

The stoneware traditions of Germany 
continued, with changes over time in 
ornamentation, color, and molded 
decoration that kept pace with the 
general artistic climate. Even as late as 
the end of the seventeenth century, 
molded stoneware vessels clearly de- 
scended from the Siegburg wares were 
still being produced (Figure 9). In this 
late example, the molded decoration 
consists of bust-length portraits alter- 
nating with stylized floral devices. 
Each relief is framed by stamped 
lozenge-shaped borders. A carry-over 
from the earlier tradition is the combi- 
nation of stoneware with metal 
mounts at the foot and neck; in this 
instance, the mounts bear the mark of 
a Munich silversmith, Franz Oxner 
(died 1688). The dark brown glaze of 
the jar is counterbalanced by brilliant 
enamel painting in shades of red, blue, 
white, and yellow, and the overall 
effect is more exuberant and secular 
than the earlier Siegburg example il- 

Among the most important types of 
pottery made in Europe from the 
Renaissance onward was tin-glazed 
earthenware; the creamy white surface 

of this pottery was produced by 
introducing tin ash into a basic lead 
glaze. The result — a nearly pure white 
opaque glaze — could be used to 
obscure the native color of the humble 
clay beneath the glaze, thus providing 
potters with a sparkling canvas that 
received painted decoration readily. 
Tin-glazed earthenware is commonly 
known by a variety of names related to 
the geographic regions in which it was 
produced:faience in French-speaking 
areas; maiolica in Italy; and delftware in 
England and Holland. Each country 
developed particular styles for orna- 
menting this surface, and several alter- 
natives were available to the painters 
responsible for the decoration of the 
pieces. Color and pattern could be 
painted on the unfired tin-oxide glaze 
with metallic pigments able to with- 
stand the high heat of the kiln. "Un- 
derglaze" colors, those pigments fired 
with the tin glaze, became irrevocably 
conjoined with the glaze surface. 
Cobalt was used to produce a spec- 
tacular blue, manganese for a rich 
brown purple, copper produced a 
green, and iron an intense red. Yellow 
was achieved by using antimony. 

A second technique of color applica- 
tion could be utilized after the object 
had been fired to a pristine whiteness. 
Enamels — pigments in a fusible glass 
powder — could be painted on the 
smooth glazed surface; a second firing 
at a reduced temperature "fixed" the 
enamels to the surface of the glaze. 
These "overglaze" colors did not be- 
come absorbed by the glaze in the 
same manner as underglaze colors. 

The knowledge of tin-glazing arrived 
in Europe by a long and complicated 
route that began in the Near East. It 
was due to Islamic potters that the 
technique eventually arrived in Spain, 
from whence it later travelled to pot- 
teries all over continental Europe and 
England. Italian tin-glazed wares were 
being produced at least as early as the 
twelfth century, but the major flower- 
ing of maiolica occurred in the four- 
teenth and fifteenth centuries. Al- 
though there were many centers in 
Italy that produced fine maiolica — 
Deruta, Faenza, and Cafaggiolo, for 
example — one of the most active pot- 
teries, that of Gubbio, is represented in 
the Museum collection by a circular 

plate painted with a figure of Orpheus 
(Figure 10). The painterly quality of 
this dish is typical of Italian Renais- 
sance pottery. A classical subject is 
depicted in contemporary guise; Or- 
pheus is dressed in sixteenth-century 
costume and plays a viola rather than a 
more purely antique lyre. The scene is 
painted in the brilliant underglaze col- 
ors available at the time and reveals a 
dependence upon canvas painting of 
the period. The art of Italian maiolica 
is often that of the painter rather than 
the potter, since the form of the object 
is clearly secondary to its narrative or 
pictorial content. In this instance, the 
painter has even signed his composi- 
tion "M.G." for Maestro Giorgio 
Andreoli, and dated the work 1536. 
The legibility of the narrative indicates 
a function of pottery quite distinct 
from the more purely "patterned" 
wares already discussed. The 
multitude of aesthetic ends that pot- 
tery has served, including that of a 
narrative document capable of ex- 
pressing literary, philosophical, and 
poetic concepts, has given the craft a 
continuing vitality into our own time. 


Italy, Gubbio, signed "M.G." 

Plate, 1536 

Earthenware, tin-glazed, polychrome under- 

glaze painting 
Gift of R. Thornton Wilson 

Tin-glazed wares from France are well 
represented in the Cooper-Hewitt col- 
lection. A footed urn (Figure 11) made 
in Moustiers about 1735 strikes a bal- 
ance between the pattern tradition and 
that of factual information. The un- 
derglaze cobalt blue decoration of this 
piece consists of elaborate and finely 
painted arabesque and lambrequin 
borders related in spirit to the work of 
the prolific designer Jean Berain 
(1637-1711). Intended for use as a 
display piece, the urn contains a per- 

sonalized reference to its owner in the 
form of an elaborate feather- 
mantled-and-bannered coat of arms, 
complete with smoking cannons and 
other trophies of war. The shape of the 
urn exemplifies baroque taste, with a 
robust circular form, molded gad- 
rooning, and mask handles. The fac- 
tory at Moustiers was responsbile for 
the production of impressive display 
faience, such as this example, un- 
doubtedly a special order from an 
aristocratic client. However, many 

simpler forms were also produced for 
more-or-less everday use, such as 
bowls and covers, mustard pots, and 
soup plates. As noted in earlier potters' 
wares, the relationship in design and 
forms between potters' wares and 
those of metalworkers remained a 
close one; an urn such as this may have 
been as logically fabricated in silver, 
and similar examples can be 
documented. To finance costly wars, 
Louis XIV required the aristocracy to 
turn in their silver to be melted down 

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France, Moustiers 
Urn, about 1735 

Earthenware, tin-glazed, underglaze decora- 
Gift of Miss Catherine Oglesby 


France, probably Nevers 

Cap or Wig Stands, late 17th century 

Earthenware, tin-glazed, underglaze decora- 

Bequest of Richard Cranch Greenleaf, 
in memory of his mother, 
Adeline Emma Greenleaf 

1962-60-2, 4 

for bullion. Many distinguished 
families then furnished their tables 
with the finest of faience (or, later, 
porcelain), and the craft of the potters 
in France received added impetus due 
to this royal action. 

Throughout the seventeenth and 
eighteenth centuries, Europeans con- 
tinued to be fascinated by the Orient; 
much Chinese porcelain (frequently of 
the blue-and-white variety) was im- 
ported to major European centers, and 
the effect on the design vocabulary of 
potters can be easily illustrated. A pair 
of hat or wig stands (Figure 12), al- 
though made for an expressly Eu- 
ropean fashion, is decorated with 
scenes that evoke the world of the 
East. Painted in underglaze cobalt and 
manganese, each stand depicts 
Chinese figures within an atmospheric 
landscape that consists of isolated ele- 
ments such as rocks, trees, and earth. 

Chinese-inspired decoration was not 
always as restrained and poetic as it is 
on these stands and in some instances 
was bold, theatrical, and even garish, 
as in a soup tureen in the Museum 
collection (Figure 13) which has been 

"^ -sl^ 6 #********' 





France, attr. to Veuve Perrin factory 

Tureen, about 1760 

Earthenware, tin-glazed, enamel decoration 

Gift of Miss Eleanor Hewitt 


attributed to the factory of Veuve 
Perrin, known for its brilliantly 
enameled wares of unusually fine 
quality. By the middle years of the 
eighteenth century, porcelain factories 
had been founded throughout Europe, 
and pottery concerns were facing stiff 
competition. In comparison to the 
refined porcelain of Meissen and 
Sevres, pottery was a humble relative, 
but potters continued to produce a 
vast array of forms for those who 
could not afford the more expensive 
luxury. Factories such as those at Mar- 
seilles, Niderviller, Strasbourg, and 
Sceaux maintained an active staff of 

designers, modelers, glazers, and 
painters during the second half of the 
century, but they were eclipsed by the 
growing availability of porcelain and 
the very real challenge offered by the 
successful potters of England. 

The next important highwater mark 
in the history of European pottery 
occurred in the small factories of Staf- 
fordshire in England, and the name 
that has become synonymous with 
English pottery of the late eighteenth 
century is that of the brilliant in- 
novator Josiah Wedgwood (1730— 

Wedgwood, who was from a family of 
Staffordshire potters, entered into 
partnership with the potter Thomas 
Whieldon in 1754. Many of Wedg- 
wood's critical strides in pottery pro- 
duction were the result of his zealous 
research into various glazes and clay 
mixtures. By 1769 he had established 
an expanded pottery works named 
Etruria, a reference to the spirit of 
antiquity that Wedgwood captured in 
his refined neoclassical wares. Several 
distinct developments in the means, 
methods, and materials of pottery 
making are ascribed to Wedgwood. 
Among the important pottery bodies 


Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795), Etruria factory 


Bowl, tray, and ladle, about 1780 

Earthenware ("Queen's Ware"), overglaze 

Bequest of Erskine Hewitt 

developed to a point of perfection at 
the Wedgwood factory was a fine 
earthenware covered with a creamy 
white glaze that suited admirably the 
simple and elegant forms molded at 
the factory (Figure 14). This cream- 
colored ware, called Queen's Ware 
after he had received Queen Char- 
lotte's patronage, is painted with deli- 
cate borders of classical husks and 
garlands, in a warm brown that 
further emphasizes the creamy body. 
Standard domestic forms — plates, 

bowls, and tureens — were mass- 
produced at his factory; the high 
quality of the wares, the low cost of 
materials and labor, and the suitability 
of the designs for a market that had left 
behind the frivolity of the rococo for a 
purer form of classicism made the 
wares an instant success, as well as a 
rival to porcelain. 

In addition to the popular cream- 
colored wares, Wedgwood introduced 
a series of highly refined stoneware 

bodies — jasper ware and basaltes 
ware — made of colored clays that fired 
to a rich tone and offered an entirely 
new range of color possibilities, in- 
cluding a dramatic black basaltes ware, 
an example of which is in the collec- 
tion of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum 
(Figure 15). The Cooper-Hewitt's root 
pot is fitted with a removable holder in 
which bulbs or blossoms can be in- 
serted. The classically inspired decora- 
tion of putti carrying flower garlands 
is picked out in a bold terra-cotta 


Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795), Etruria factory 


Root Pot, 1780-1800 

Black basaltes, encaustic painted decoration 

Bequest of Erskine Hewitt 




John Turner (1739-1786) 
England, Staffordshire 
Teapot, about 1780 
Stoneware, enamel decoration 
Bequest of Erskine Hewitt 

color, and additional painted details in 
a striking pink are produced in a 
process misleadingly called encaustic 
by Wedgwood himself. 

Although Wedgwood is by far the 
most familiar of the great artist-potters 
of the eighteenth century, he was not 
working alone, and the fine work of 
his contemporaries and competitors 
has often been unfairly overshadowed 
by Wedgwood's fame. One such con- 
temporary, whose work is of the finest 
quality, was John Turner (died 1786), 
also of Staffordshire (Figure 16). 
Turner's excellence as a designer is 
well illustrated by this teapot, which 
cleverly incorporates an unusual slid- 
ing cover. The form of this vessel is 

identical to examples in silver made in 
London at approximately the same 
time, but the applied decoration in 
delicate pastel colors and a bold 
oxblood red, produces an effect not 
possible in metal. 

During the nineteenth century, re- 
vived styles were given a new interpre- 
tation that reflected popular taste. 
Many factories produced elaborate 
pottery that echoed porcelain design 
of the eighteenth century, but there 
were also radically new developments, 
such as a fresh interest in naturalistic 
and organic sources of design that gave 
nineteenth-century pottery a special 
appeal. There were also important 
innovators active in studios and at 

factories, designers whose work has 
remained important and influential in 
the history of modern pottery. 
Mechanization and mass production 
had made both pottery and porcelain 
available to a large consumer market; 
the aesthetic quality of popular design 
was challenged by enterprising indi- 
viduals who gave a new vitality to the 

One important link between early 
post-Renaissance pottery in Europe 
and the modern world should be 
briefly noted; this is the survival of a 
folk pottery tradition that continued 
to exist outside of the mainstream of 
commercial and studio design. An 
example of the unselfconscious folk 

tradition is found in a collection of 
related folk material in the Cooper- 
Hewitt collection (Figure 17). This 
platter was made in Switzerland in the 
late eighteenth or early nineteenth cen- 
tury and is a bold and direct statement 
of folk aesthetics. A curious parallel, 
without any direct genealogical con- 
nection, may be seen between this 
platter and the tenth-century B.C. 
bowl discussed earlier (see Figure 1). 
Both objects share a spirit of vitality 
that makes them kindred, although 
fashioned nearly two thousand years 
apart. Both potters, while working 
within a tradition, expressed an energy 
and individuality in their work that is 
admired even today. 



Plate, late 18th century 

Earthenware, slip decoration 

From the C. Helme and Alice B. Strater 

Collection, gift of C. Helme Strater, Jr., 
John B. Strater and Margaret S. Robinson 



George Tinworth (1843-1913) 

England, executed at Doulton ; 

Jug, about 1869-1872 
Stoneware, salt-glazed 
Gift of L. Bancel La Farge 

id Co., Lam- 

Many potters outside of industrial 
production appeared during the 
nineteenth century, and certain leading 
designers actually worked within the 
industrial community. Among the 
more significant of these artists is 
Theodore Deck (1823-1891). Deck's 
contributions to the progress of design 
were many, but among them must be 
noted his technical interest in rich 
polychrome glazes. One of these — a 
superb turquoise, subsequently called 
bleu de Deck — was particularly fa- 
vored. Exotic pottery styles, such as 
the Persian and Japanese, were used by 
Deck as a springboard for a new 
stylistic synthesis (Figure 18 Cover). 
No mere copy or revival, Deck's 
work recalled the past without being 
imitative, as he explored the visual 
potential of color and pattern. 

A major nineteenth-century figure 
within the stoneware tradition was the 
potter George Tinworth (1843-1913). 
Tinworth, whose personal mark often 
appears on his wares, worked at the 
Doulton Pottery in England. Tin- 
worth's work included freely executed 
and boldly sculptural compositions; a 


Emile Galle (1846-1904) 

France, Nancy 


Earthenware, enamel decoration, glass 

Anonymous gift 


more idyllic and domestic aspect of his 
work is seen in a handled jug from the 
Museum collection (Figure 19). Re- 
miniscent of much earlier stoneware in 
its general form, the design also repre- 
sents a departure in that the techniques 
used for making the jug clearly reveal 
the hand of the artist. The calligraphic 
scratched decoration of leaves and the 
mottled blue glaze in contrast to the 
grey stoneware body clearly indicate 
the handwork involved in fashioning 
the piece. 

A third major figure of the period is 
the well-known Emile Galle (1846— 
1904), a multi-faceted genius who 
created glass, furniture and ceramics. 
One of Galle's distinctive forms — 
humorous costumed animals — is seen 
in an example from the Cooper- 
Hewitt collection (Figure 20). This 
sculpture is at once realistic and imagi- 
native; the bulging glass eyes lend a 
stop-motion character to the express- 
ive face, while the painted floral dres- 
sing gown worn by the animal pro- 
vides a multi-level trompe-l'oeil 
message regarding materials and 


Albert R. Valentien (1862-1925) 

Rookwood Pottery, Cincinnati, Ohio 

Ewer, 1888 


Anonymous gift 


A survey of pottery during the late 
nineteenth and early twentieth cen- 
turies would be incomplete without 
reference to the American studio of the 
Rookwood Pottery in Cincinnati, 
Ohio. Founded in 1880 by Maria 
Longworth Nichols (Storer), the pot- 
tery began as an effort to gain recogni- 
tion for women who were active pot- 
tery painters in the Cincinnati area. 
This modest effort became the base for 
a large number of talented pottery 
artists, who turned a home craft into a 
fine art. In 1890 the Rookwood Pot- 
tery was awarded a gold medal at the 
Paris Exposition, and throughout the 
closing years of the nineteenth century 
and well into the present one, finely 

executed wares emanated from this 
pottery (Figure 21). 

The rise of the artist-potter during the 
nineteenth century was paralleled by a 
growing number of designers who 
were aligning themselves with indus- 
trial production. By the twentieth cen- 
tury, many accomplished designers 
were working within industry and had 
contributed significant design state- 
ments that took into consideration 
machine production and the neces- 
sities of modern industrialized life. 
The work of the industrial designers 
cannot be underestimated, and al- 
though their contributions are not 

within the scope of this catalogue, the 
Cooper-Hewitt Museum continues to 
collect examples of fine industrially- 
designed ceramics. 

Notable works from the early decades 
of this century now in the Museum 
collection include a ceramic sculpture 
designed by Willy Wuillemeier, exe- 
cuted by the French firm of Fau and 
Gaillard (Figure 22). This work, an 
angular, stylized free-standing relief, 
was exhibited at the 1924 Salon des 
Artistes Decorateurs and embodies 
many of the principles of design in the 
1920s. The subject, St. George and the 
Dragon, harks back to medieval 


Designed by Willy Wuilleumier 

Executed by Fau and Gaillard, Paris 

St. George and the Dragon, about 1924 


From the collection of the late Stanley Siegel; 

the gift of Stanley Siegel 


Ka-Kwong Hui (born 1922) 

United States 

Vase, 1955 


Purchased in memory of Georgiana L. 


legend and myth; the abstracted forms 
and elegant theatrical gestures are 
clearly akin to the modern sensibility. 
In a literal and visual sense, the past has 
been dramatized in this composition; 
St. George is an attenuated nude of 
ambiguous gender, and both horse and 
dragon have been translated into sur- 
face pattern and composition. As a 
theatrical work, the sculpture does not 
require a suspension of disbelief, but 
rather an appreciation of the artistic 

A work from the middle decades of 
the present century by the American 
ceramist Ka-Kwong Hui, may be con- 
sidered indicative of modern trends 
(Figure 23). In this work, narrative has 
been abandoned entirely. The form is 
not derived from any recognizable 
natural object, although it suggests 
such an origin. The most immediately 
perceptible impression is one of spon- 
taneity; the form has developed as an 
independent organic structure that 
suggests a stage in the process of 
growth, rather than the completion of 
a cycle. Textural considerations — 
smoothness in contrast to roughness 
— also encourage a tactile as well as a 

visual response. Pottery of the twen- 
tieth century, of which this work is an 
isolated example, has moved into a 
new realm of sensation and under- 
standing that approaches the more 
traditional formal qualities of the fine 

The Cooper-Hewitt collection of con- 
temporary pottery will continue to 
expand. It is impossible, of course, to 
document the work of every artist 
currently producing pottery, since the 
Museum collection will also continue 
to document the process of design in a 
worldwide sense. Trends in contem- 
porary pottery are complex and diver- 
gent. Many artists are creating 
sculpture that may or may not refer to 
older traditions. The conscientious 
selection of new works, along with a 
primary concern for the quality of the 
objects, insures that the collections of 
pottery at the Cooper-Hewitt will 
remain a primary archive of this re- 
spected art. 

David Revere McFadden 

Curator of Decorative Arts 


Kurt Fishback 

United States 

Plate, Sunshine Bright, 1969 


Gift of S.C.Johnson and Son, Inc. 


Selected Bibliography 

Barber, Edwin A. The Pottery and Porcelain of the United States: An Historical Review of America's Ceramic Art from the Earliest 

Times to the Present Day. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1909. 
Bemrose, Geoffrey. Nineteenth-Century English Pottery and Porcelain. London: Faber and Faber, 1952. 
Chaffers, William. Marks and Monograms on European and Oriental Pottery and Porcelain. 2 vols. 15th rev. ed. London: W. 

Reeves, 1965. 
Charleston, Robert J., ed. World Ceramics. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968. 

Clark, Garth and Hughto, Margie. A Century of Ceramics in the United States, 1878-1978. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1979. 
Cox, Warren E. The Book of Pottery and Porcelain. 2 vols. New York: Crown Publishers, 1944. 
Cushion, J. P. Handbook of Pottery and Porcelain Marks. 4th ed. London and Boston: Faber and Faber, 1980. 
Ducret, Siegfried. German Porcelain and Faience. Translated by Diana Imber. New York: Universe Books, 1962. 
Frothingham, Alice Wilson. Lustreware of Spain. New York: Hispanic Society of America, 1951. 
Garner, FH. and Archer, Michael. English Delftware. 2nd ed. London: Faber and Faber, 1972. 
Godden, Geoffrey A. British Pottery and Porcelain, 1780-1850. London: A. Barker, 1963. 
Hettes, Karel and Rada, Pravoslav. Modern Ceramics: Pottery and Porcelain of the World. Prague: Artis, 1965. 
Honey, William B. The Ceramic Art of China and Other Countries of the Far East. London: Faber and Faber and the Hyperion 

Press, 1945. 

. The art of the Potter. London: Faber and Faber, 1946. 

. English Pottery and Porcelain. Revised by R.J. Charleston. London: A.&C. Black, 1962. 

. European Ceramic Art from the End of the Middle Ages to about 1815. 2nd ed. London: Faber and Faber, 1963. 

Kircher, Edwin J.; Agranoff, Barbara; and Agranoff, Joseph. Rookwood: Its Golden Era of Art Pottery, 1880-1929. 

Cincinnati, Ohio 1969. 
Lane, Arthur. Early Islamic Pottery: Mesopotamia, Egypt and Persia. London: Faber and Faber, 1947. 

. Later Islamic Pottery: Persia, Syria, Egypt and Turkey. London: Faber and Faber, 1957. 

. French Faience. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1970. 

Medley, Margaret. The Chinese Potter: A Practical History of Chinese Ceramics. Oxford: Phaidon, 1976. 

Nordness, Lee. Objects USA. New York: Viking Press, 1970. 

Pottery. The Smithsonian Illustrated Library of Antiques. New York: Cooper-Hewitt Museum, 1981. 

Rackham, Bernard. Italian Maiolica. London: Faber and Faber, 1963. 

Reilly, R. and Savage, D. The Dictionary of Wedgwood. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Antique Collectors Club, 1980. 

Rose, Muriel. Artist-Potters in England. London: Faber and Faber, 1955. 

Wakefield, Hugh. Victorian Pottery. London: H.Jenkins, 1962. 

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